Junkfood Science: Botox for teens?

December 06, 2007

Botox for teens?

Insecurities and self-consciousness have always been parts of adolescence, but another story, this one from Australia, reveals that younger and younger girls are being bombarded with images leaving them more anxious than ever about their bodies and going to new extremes to fit in. The article in The Australian News opens with a portrayal of Lily, an active and healthy six year old who wouldn’t go swimming for fear everyone would laugh at her and say she was fat.

Melinda Tankard Reist, director of Women’s Forum Australia, an independent research and advocacy group for social, health and economic issues important to women, writes:

Girls now the sum of their body parts

...A Mission Australia national survey of 29,000 young people aged 11 to 24 released this week has found body image is the most important issue for them. The annual survey, asking young people to rank 14 issues in order of concern, puts body image ahead of family conflict, stress, bullying, alcohol and drugs and suicide...

Many girls feel disgusted by their bodies, engaged in constant self-surveillance and self-criticism. Their bodies have become an all-consuming project....Children as young as eight are being hospitalised with eating disorders. Some hospitals report there are not enough beds to cope with the numbers.

A recent report found one in five 12-year-old girls regularly used fasting and vomiting to lose weight. One in four Australian girls want to get plastic surgery...The nerve-paralysing poison Botox is being pitched to teenagers as a preventative against wrinkles. Growing numbers are having breast implants. Younger women seek Brazilian waxes because their boyfriends complain they are too hairy and don't match up to how women look in porn. Girls have been reduced to the sum of their body parts... The messages delivered by a culture obsessed with body image and sex limit the freedom of girls to explore other facets of their lives....

Women’s Forum Australia recently released a paper, called Faking It, which summarizes the academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women. It examines the findings of psychologists, sociologists and other researchers on how media images affect women’s health and well-being; looks at the history of body angst; and explores why women read these magazines, hate their bodies and hurt themselves trying to diet and change their bodies. It opens:

EVERY time you turn around it seems someone has come up with a new drug or surgery to redesign women. Weight loss pills, drugs to stave off ageing, cosmetic surgery, liposuction, botox. Women can’t just be themselves — there’s always someone who wants to intervene to enhance them — usually someone out to make money.

Ms Reist went on to write of the urgent need for education and recognition of these issues and for more positive images of diverse women in media.

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